Hacking the Wood Runner Tray

Hey, DecoFriends! It’s Crystal, your Queen of DecoHacks again with another piece from the Spring 2021 box. I think this box is my favorite so far. The pieces have such a light and airy look and feel. One of my favorite pieces is the wood runner tray! There are so many beautiful and functional ways to style this unique piece, but I wanted to do something different. I get so excited when I can think of a different way to use an item than its intended purpose, so that’s where my thinking process starts. 

I’ve been doing a bit of wood crafting lately so wood signs were fresh on my brain. There’s something about crafting with wood that makes me feel more like a DIYer than a crafter. Anytime I can find a reason to get my drill out I’m all over it! So, I went to work turning this two-part wood tray into one solid piece that I could personalize and hang on a wall. 

The first thing I wanted to do was change the finish. The chevron pattern is cute and trendy, but I knew I wanted to stencil something on the board, so to do this I needed a blank canvas. I decided to stay with a whitewashed look, but I wanted to make it look a little more rustic and not so solid white. In order to do a rustic white washed or weathered look on a board that is already white, you first need to go dark. In this hack, I will show you how I did just that. 

Now, even if you don’t want to change the functionality of your tray, you can still follow the technique I used to give it a makeover. Get creative and make it your own! Adding a personalized stencil or a design will make this an even more unique piece that your friends will envy. 

Now let’s get started and I’ll walk you through all the steps I took in my process. The following is a list of everything you will need to recreate this hack exactly as I made it. At the end, I’ll show you a couple more style options that I played with before hanging it on the wall above my front door.

What you’ll need to recreate this hack:

  • Drill 
  • Screwdriver
  • Mending plates with half inch screws
  • Sand paper/sanding block (fine grit and medium grit)
  • Wood glue
  • Wood filler
  • Putty knife
  • Dark wood stain
  • Soft, lint-free cloth
  • Paint brush
  • White chalk paint
  • Clear matte acrylic spray sealer


  • Stencil of your choice
  • Black matte or chalk paint

First, remove the hinges from the bottom of the tray. Push the ends of the two boards together. Place the mending plates in position and mark the holes for the screws. Drill a starter hole for the screws with a small drill bit.


Before installing the mending plates, apply wood glue between the two boards and push them together. Wipe off any excess glue. Then screw the mending plates into position. Turn the board over and wipe away any excess glue on the top.  


To disguise and reinforce the seam between the two boards, use a putty knife to apply wood filler on the seam across the top and sides and allow it to dry according to the product instructions. After the wood filler is dry, sand away the excess until smooth. You should be able to run your hand along the top and sides of the board without feeling the seam or any lumps and bumps. If the seam is still uneven, apply another layer of wood filler and repeat the process. Use a sanding block to sand the entire board on the top and sides to smooth out any rough spots. 


Remove the legs using the hex key that came with the tray. Keep the legs and bolts because you can use them in the future to turn this piece back into a runner tray. Using a soft lint-free cloth, apply the wood stain to the top and sides of the board. I used two heavy coats. Allow the stain plenty of time to dry before moving on. When the stain is dry you will be able to run your hand along it without it feeling sticky. Don’t worry about the chevron pattern still showing through the stain. I think it adds a uniqueness to the final finish.


Once the stain is completely dry, use a fine grit sand paper to lightly rough up the glossy surface of the wood stain. This will allow your paint to stick well. Using a dry paint brush, cover the top and sides with the white chalk paint. How thick you paint it on is a personal preference, but keep in mind that you want a good bit of the dark finish underneath to show. I applied two coats unevenly leaving some places thinner than others.


Once the paint is completely dry, use a sanding block to smooth out the surface. Sand around all the edges to allow the dark wood stain to show. Sand some areas of the finish thinner so that the dark finish shows through. Continue sanding uneven areas at random until you are happy with the amount of dark showing through the white paint. Thoroughly wipe off the dust from sanding.

Apply the optional stencil of your choice. I wanted my sign to have our last name and the year my husband and I got married. I made my stencil using my Cricut cutting machine. If you don’t have the ability to create your own stencil and want something similar, there are lots of small businesses and individuals on Etsy.com that will do custom stencils for you at a reasonable price. If using a stencil that doesn’t have an adhesive side I recommend using a stencil adhesive spray. This will help to prevent paint bleed. For stenciling I like to use makeup sponges instead of a brush. Sponges are easy to use, make a nice smooth finish, and help to prevent paint from bleeding under your stencil. Apply small amounts of paint at a time, building until you are happy with the color. I applied roughly two layers of black paint over my stencil. After the stencil paint dries, apply 2-3 coats of a matte acrylic sealer spray. I recommend using a spray opposed to a brush-on finish so you won’t have any brush strokes showing. To hang my new sign on the wall I added a sawtooth hanger on the back. 


I played with 3 different styling options for my finished piece. You can lean the sign against a wall on a fireplace mantel or like I did here on my sideboard table. 


If you keep the legs you can put them back on to use the piece as a tray. 


And then you can hang it on a wall like I did above my front door. I’m really happy with the way it looks there!


In my hacks I use techniques that are easy for anyone to recreate. If looking at the overall task is intimidating, just take it step by step. I hope this hack inspires you to personalize this and other items in your home. Until next time, stay creative!